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Sweden to close New York and LA consulates

David Landes · 23 Jul 2009, 11:54

Published: 23 Jul 2009 11:54 GMT+02:00

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The official announcement of the closures, which have been rumoured for months, comes despite vociferous opposition to the move from US-based Swedes and the Swedish business community.

In addition to the closings in the US, Sweden will also shutter consulates in Guangzhou, China and the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, as well as the embassy in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

In announcing the closures, Foreign Minister Carl Bildt blamed the move on budget shortfalls begun under the previous Social Democratic government.

“When I took office as Minister for Foreign Affairs in autumn 2006, the Ministry had a budget deficit of over 50 million kronor ($6.6 million). The deficit had been built up over several years and the previous government maintained activities that had no financing,” Bildt said in a statement.

“With these changes, we will balance the budget and at the same time renew working methods.”

The cuts are part of a broader cost-savings effort which will reduce the ministry’s real estate outlays by 50 million kronor annually and eliminate 100 positions by the end of 2010.

When rumours about the possible closure of Sweden's consulates general in New York and Los Angeles began circulating earlier this spring, many US-based Swedes as well as members of the Swedish business community voiced their displeasure over the plans.

The Swedish American Chamber of Commerce of New York (SACC-NY) warned of “monumental negative consequences” and sent a letter to Bildt urging him to reconsider the decision.

But in the end, the ministry's budgetary challenges took precedence.

According to the ministry, Sweden’s consulate-general in Los Angeles will be closed by the end of 2009, at which point the embassy in Washington, DC will take over responsibility for the nine honourary consulates which currently report to the Los Angeles consulate.

Efforts are also underway to find a way to open an honourary consulate in Los Angeles at some point in the future, according to the foreign ministry.

Closure of the Consulate-General in New York is expected to be completed by January 31st, 2010. Curent plans call for the current consulate to be replaced by an honourary consulate to provide some services to Swedish citizens in the area.

Story continues below…

International trade matters will continue to be handled in New York by the Swedish Trade Council (Exportrådet) and the Invest in Sweden Agency, with additional responsibilities falling to the embassy in Washington.

The closure of the consulate-general in Kaliningrad is set to be completed by October 31st or this year, with the consulate-general in Guangzhou is set to be closed a month later.

The ministry expects the closure of the embassy in Colombo to be completed by March 31st, 2010.

David Landes (david.landes@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

12:17 July 23, 2009 by tigger007
that would be a lost to the small swedish elite,but what about the common folk.i'm sure that the swedish government has a really good reason to close the consulate office in NYC. the swedish government has spend alot of money on the head embassy office in wash dc(16 million dollars).i have been to the swedish consulate office in NYC,it's small and on the 45th floor. i guess that the swedish consulate office in NYC is important for the feel of having sweden in america or a since of swedish pride. i hope that they will figure something out soon,and i hope it will benefit the common folk of sweden. i guess for any country having a consulate office is the usa(NYC or WASH DC) is a big thing to have to boast your country's pride!!

i hope the swedes won't get too mad over this!(atleast you have free health care) wash dc isn't that far away by bus or train,it's sweden way to save money when money is an issue these days.
13:03 July 23, 2009 by mbe
It is a shame for Swedish people not to have any sanctuary overseas.. I agree that Sweden is spending more money than they want on these consulate offices. I just think it is nice for them to be able to have a place to go and speak their language when needed.. There is the Swedish church in NYC.

As for "free" health care.. we pay enormous amount of taxes to fund this. With waiting lists for 1 to 2 years for knee surgery or other small problems..So nothing is for free...
13:13 July 23, 2009 by skane refugee
Have been to a reception at the old NYC consulate ... good location but nothing to write home about as it's not a 'prestige' property ...

Often used by connected Swedes as a venue to impress their new NYC employers

But ordinary Swedes must use it occasionally in an emergency (passport reissue etc)

FWIW, why don't the Nordic countries share one consulate??

OK Norway is not in the EU, but SE, DK and FI are

Sweden plus a couple of its neighbours would add up to a region more populous than the Netherlands (16.2 million people) for example ... which I guess would give economies of scale
13:22 July 23, 2009 by kaze
New York makes sense; Washington and the embassy are just down the road by American standards.

LA though...they really should have something over there.
14:42 July 23, 2009 by tigger007

by american standards it's FREE or little next to nothing. LA should have a consulate office,where is the nearest consulate office in LA or near california?

well if the citiies kommune's didn't spend the tax money on unless things and put the tax money forwards health care. you wouldn't have to waite 1 or 2 years for an knee operation(in the 60's taxes in sweden was at 27%), the health care then was great!
17:22 July 23, 2009 by Ex_New_Yorker
Maybe if the "highflyers" in New York would have paid less for rent they would still have a job.
19:30 July 23, 2009 by BGAndersson
Get used to this: New York City is the Capital of The World. Guangzhou, Kaliningrad, Colombo? I do not see NYC in the same light, I am sorry. This whole episode is shameful. Even the smallest nations recognize the importance of New York and have consulates here. Sweden is turning its back on centuries of a presence here.
20:36 July 23, 2009 by jrpilgrim
I live near San Francisco where there's a Swedish consulate (open only 3 hrs/day). Recently, the Swedish gov't shifted all passport renewal apps and other similar services to the NY consulate - meaning you had to go through the NY consulate for just about everything. Now what will happen?
20:44 July 23, 2009 by peropaco
Good riddance. Most of the farmers working at the both NY and LA consulates are some of the most arrogant priqcs and believed they were on top of the food chain. Send them back to Bergsjö and have them work at Max or Ica to learn some humility.
22:43 July 23, 2009 by Weekend_warrior
Like jrpilgrim, I too came from San Francisco. There is probably what they refer to as an "honorary consulate" there. When I went through my visa process, I filed there and they mailed it down to Los Angeles. I did my interview in San Francisco as well.

I guess for people on the west coast or atleast for Californians, it will work the same way, just the application will be forwarded to DC. It will probably raise the cost they charge to ship your documents...lol.
02:07 July 24, 2009 by Swede Two
With the New security measures in place, renewing a passport isn't as easy as mailing in a couple photos anymore with ones application, under the new security, it would have required me to travel to L.A. to be scanned by their new system, and NY was the other location for this purpose, under the new changes now, would this mean we all would have to travel to DC to accomplish the same thing, for many of us here, it is not " just down the road", the cost could be several hundred dollars?

And traveling back to the home land would cost even more.

The Honorary Consulates don't do passports any longer, so they are of no help to us either.
18:41 July 24, 2009 by Nicklas Sandberg
The problem is that for us who live on the East Coast, and can no longer go to Boston (hon Consulate) for passports, etc, we would have to fly to D.C. or drive 14hrs to get a new passport. NYC was 5-6 hr drive away and doable, a 14 hr drive one-way is not feasible at all times.
19:31 July 24, 2009 by Puffin
Heard an interview with the socialdemocrat shadow foreign minister yesterday who said that they will re-poen NYC if they win the election next year
19:37 July 24, 2009 by Bushido
This doesn't make sense, as there are huge amounts of Swedish visitors, both in business and tourism, who visit NYC every year. DC may not be geographically far from NY, but culturally it is light years away. It also doesn't make much sense to someone if they need the consular support in NY, to have to travel 2 hours to DC.

Is this another notch in the expansion of the US legal and 'global support' system?
22:18 July 24, 2009 by California Kid
There is quite a large Swedish expatriate community living in the United States. California alone has a surprisingly large number. For a country several times larger than Sweden itself it makes good sense to keep the Consulates.

Will the Embassy alone be able to respond to a natural disaster 5000 Km away? Swedes are now required to appear in person when renewing their passports. If you lose your passport while in the U. S., will you have to travel to Washington D. C. to get a temporary passport to travel home?

As a budget cutting effort this really isn't going to make a significant change in the overall Foreign Ministry. It will have a significant financial impact on Swedish citizens living in the affected countries. Maybe other cost cutting efforts could have been made through out the Foreign Ministry such as cutting residence allowances for consular staff and staff reductions as well.
09:57 July 26, 2009 by ameribrit
Maybe Sweden should adopt the same tax idea that the US has where you are taxed on your foreign earned income. That way all you ex pats living in the US could pay the difference between the minimal US taxes and the rather substantial Swedish taxes on your earnings. This would be a way for you to help pay for a consulate in every little town in America. No? OK just a thought. lol

As for this 1-2 years for a knee operation. Under the Swedish health care system if a service can not be offered within 90 days you can have the procedure done privately and the state will have to pick up the cost. I work in Emergency medicine and I moved to Sweden from the US and Sweden's system is just as good as the US one for quality of care but without the bankruptcy at the end of it.
10:40 July 26, 2009 by matale
They actually do this in Dar es Salaam.
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